“Tis the season”….Filipino Style

Mary Riedel KF9, Philippines

Filipino Parols/Christmas Lanterns outside the NE Pacific Mall

…”Tis the season,” and, “twas the season” from the moment I arrived in the Philippines on October 3rd – a Kiva Fellow bound for Kiva’s Microfinance Partner ASKI. (Microfinance field partners, are a critical link in connecting Kiva lenders with Kiva borrowers. Check out this rad video to learn more about the process). The Christmas Season starts sometime in September and lasts though the middle of January. I distinctly remember my first encounter with Christmas the weekend after I arrived in Cabanatuan City, PI. I was lured into a day spa by ambiant music and reclining chairs. I decided to get a facial, and was totally relaxed. Then all of the sudden about a 1/4 of the way through my delicious experience, the music changed to the “All Christmas Music, All the time” station….45 minutes of fa-la-la was intense…. So my initial “black and white” plan of totally ignoring Christmas this year, while out in the field volunteering as a Kiva Fellow, seemed unlikely.

So I’ve been trying to create a new Christmas, a sort of Gray Christmas. (That actually sounds pretty dismal. Alright how about a turquoise Christmas, not green and not blue – somewhere in the middle of the two on the color wheel). With my new outlook in mind yesterday I said hello to Christmas and went Christmas shopping. (Scrapping my initial plan to just buy gifts for my family online, which felt cold (kind of blue:-) and disconnected for me). Oddly enough my first stop was at ASKI in Cabanatuan City where I “work.” As it turns out ASKI operates a merchant store called, “ASKI Marketing Cooperative,” where they sell some products their borrowers make (some of them are Kiva borrowers but not all – in order to remain solvent only 1/3 of MFI clients/borrowers can be funded by Kiva ). The products range from traditional clothing, shoes, arts and crafts, food, stationary, handbags an so on.

Here are a few of the items, I bought.

Clutch purse for mom - made of native Philippine flora

Angel Ornament- so I am not forgotten

Here is some things I would have bought if shipping where not crazy expensive and I had a bigger box.

Wood Bowls from Isabela

Wood is a major product in Isabela, Philippines (this is also where many Kiva Borrowers are live)

Christmas lantern (a.k.a parol)

Christmas Latterns sold at ASKI Marketing

I have been sort of obsessed with the Christmas latterns ever since their star shaped brilliance caught my eyes! “In the philippines, the parol has become an iconic symbol of a filipino christmas and is as important to filipinos as the christmas tree is to other cultures.” (wikipedia).

My favorite ones are these, simple yet beautiful.

Simple Capiz Parol

Not a fan of these…

Flower Lattern

In recent years like everything parols have advanced with technology. “The electronic lights can now be coordinated to produce a dancing effect.” (wikipedia) the result….well i think the new ones are really tacky and they give me a headache – but to each his own. I am sure they are a very nice accompaniment to what i can imagine are endless nights of videoke christmas carols.

Happy holidays!! and if your procrastinating on the shopping like i was, “every journey starts with one step!” which can be anything…like checking out the merch at the kiva online store or purchasing a Kiva gift certificate starting at $25 USD! Give a borrower something that keeps on giving – Hope! spelled L-O-A-N!

Here’s some more info about the history and construction of Parols from wikipedia.... Read more if you like below are on wikipedia.

Adaption and History

The parol, technically called philippine christmas lantern, was adapted from the chinese lantern and the
mexican piñata to symbolize the star of bethlehem.[6] patterns of the parol evolved from the five-pointed star-
shaped paper lantern that was crafted by an artisan named francisco estanislao in 1928. his creation was made
of bamboo strips pasted with papel de japon (japanese paper), illuminated by a candle or kalburo (carbide).

This kind of lighting was adapted by barrio folks to light their paths during an annual ritual dawn mass
called misa de gallo, due to electricity being unavailable at the time.[7]

Construction and Variations

Traditionally, parols are made from a star-shaped framework made of bamboo sticks which are then
covered by colored pieces of either japanese paper or crêpe paper.[1] Nowadays, the materials range from
various non-traditional materials such as beads, feathers, glass, hemp, leaves, plastic, seeds, shells, soft drink straws, wood and even metal.[8] they usually comes in various sizes—from small, tinsel and foil lanterns to
gigantic one—shapes and artistic designs where some lanterns can be electrically lit at night. other designs
include that of santa claus’s face, angels, reindeer, huge flowers, happy faces, and christmas trees.[9] more complex shapes that are seen are the rose, the bromeliad, the snowflake and the sea urchin.


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